“My boyfriend can’t find out about this,” one of my closest friends blurts out at her first Botox appointment, wide-eyed as the needle inches towards her. The doctor ensures he won’t. “Every woman I see says this,” she laughs, holding the syringe. “It’s always our little secret.”
It's something I kept hidden once, too. Our partners would be hard-pushed to tell if we’d had a drastic haircut, let alone suss out a slightly smoother forehead – plus, given most people’s reactions to the B and F words, it’s hardly surprising most women adopt a ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy when it comes to disclosing their treatments.
And I’m not singling out men. Ask both sexes their opinions on cosmetic enhancements – and the women who get them – and you’ll likely hear the same words repeated: vain, shallow, attention-seeking, insecure, fake…
In the eyes of many, Botox and fillers are for the Z-list celebs of the world. Truly beautiful people like the A-list actresses and supermodels would never feel the need to do such a thing (I’m sure you can sense my eye roll through the screen). And if they did, well, that’s their job, isn’t it? Why would YOU, a lowly mortal, need to go to such extremes? No one’s paying you to look good, so how tragic of you to try to live up to the perfect images shoved down your throat since before you could walk. Don’t you know CONFIDENCE is what makes people attractive?
I’m over being pseudo-psychoanalysed; by family, ex-partners, even strangers. My desire for a few less lines and smaller under-eye hollows isn’t, despite patronising protests, a result of deep-seated self-esteem issues – nor a need to be lusted after by every man on the Central line. I just want to breeze through my days without being asked if I’m “tired”. I want to look in the mirror and see the face of someone who’s had a full night of sleep, because I have. When I look exhausted, I feel exhausted, and I’ll pay good money not to.
The thing is – I shouldn’t have to justify my decision. Women aren’t chastised for applying concealer; accused of betraying the sisterhood for dying their roots; deemed ‘bad feminists’ for shaving their legs. What makes injectables so different? In my view, they’re simply part of modern grooming – and if you balk at the idea of how much it all costs, consider the billions women waste on skincare products promising the world but failing to deliver any real results. At least this way I’m getting my money’s worth.
Of course, I understand the argument against the ‘anti-ageing’ industry. There’s no denying beauty is power – good grooming is proven to boost the earning power of both sexes – but the insidious message that women need to stay youthful to continue being relevant is damaging. When women’s salaries plateau at age 39 and men’s continue to rise for another decade, is staving off wrinkles really a choice? Or is it, as Naomi Wolf wrote in her seminal book The Beauty Myth, simply a modern form of female oppression?
Wolf may well have a point, but she has another worth repeating: our society does reward physical attractiveness, so women shouldn’t be judged for choosing short-term beauty ‘fixes’. Because when both happen, women just can’t win. Take the case of Kylie Jenner – singled out for being the ‘least attractive’ Kardashian sibling, ridiculed for getting lip fillers, and then criticised even further for taking a while to admit it.
This shaming needs to stop. If you believe lying about nips and tucks perpetuates the same unattainable beauty standards as Photoshopped images, then support women's choices; encourage them to be open and honest – it's the only way all the secrecy around cosmetic procedures will end. Until it does, I'll quote Wolf a final time: “If a woman loves her own body, she doesn't grudge what other women do with theirs.”
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.